A Plain English Guide To British Employment Law

Constructive Dismissal

What is constructive dismissal?

If you quit your job because your boss has been unreasonable or unfair, this could potentially be constructive dismissal. In order to sue your employer for constructive dismissal, you would need to show that:

  • your boss has breached your contract
  • this breach was what caused you to resign
  • you did not previously accept the action/breach

What types of things could lead to constructive dismissal?

  • any breach of contract which is very serious –  such as non-payment or sudden demotion
  • unreasonable changes to employment conditions – such as relocation or drastic change in working hours
  • if you are subjected to any form of bullying, harassment or violence – either from your boss or colleagues
  • dangerous working conditions

What can I do before I quit and claim constructive dismissal?

Talk to your boss – or their boss – to see if the problem/s can be resolved. Alternatively go to your HR manager, a trade union representative or Acas.

If talking things through doesn’t get you anywhere, submit a formal grievance letter.

If the grievance procedure doesn’t work, and your employer agrees to it, you could try mediation through Acas.

Employment Tribunal claims – turning to Employment Law

If talking to your employer or mediation doesn’t work and you feel you have to quit, you should first get some advice regarding your employment law rights.  You may have a case for unfair or wrongful dismissal following a constructive dismissal. It is often very hard to prove that your employer’s behaviour was so bad as to make you leave.

If you do have a case for constructive dismissal, and you think you can show it was unfair or wrongful, ideally you should then leave your job immediately. Otherwise the employer may argue that, by staying, you have accepted the conduct or treatment.

Also, avoid ‘jumping the gun’ or resigning before the actual breach of contract occurs. Your employer could then claim there has been no dismissal.

Claiming benefits if you are forced to quit your job

If you leave your job, your Jobcentre Plus can delay your Jobseeker’s Allowance for up to 26 weeks. Make sure they understand what’s happened and why you had to leave.

If you are taking your case to an Employment Tribunal, it’s a good idea to give the Jobcentre Plus copies of your completed Tribunal application forms.

If you can’t claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, you may be able to claim a hardship payment (a reduced amount of Jobseeker’s Allowance).